Research

Why is understanding the parasite important ? 

Malaria threatens around 400 million people globally and results in over 0.5 million deaths annually, thereby continuing to be a major public health problem. In the absence of an effective vaccine, emerging drug resistant strains are of grave concern and consequently, there is an urgent need to develop new therapeutics. 

What do we study ? 

Our group explores how signalling pathways regulate key life-cycle transitions in the malaria parasite. Dynamic post-translational modifications (PTMs) play a central role in regulating protein function during numerous aspects of eukaryotic life including cell proliferation, differentiation and response to environmental stimuli. In Plasmodium, the causal agent of malaria, diverse PTMs are critical for parasite development and virulence. When the parasite prepares to invade a host red blood cell or the mosquito vector, it experiences substantial changes in its environment including variations in pH, ion concentration, temperature and exposure to immune factors. To rapidly respond and adapt to these stresses, the parasite utilizes signalling pathways regulated by dynamic PTMs. Our research group aims to understand the instigators and erasers of PTMs which are required to maintain dynamicity of signalling networks during host cell infection and parasite transmission.

We are particularly interested in how protein phosphorylation and ubiquitination are critical to these life-cycle transitions. We use the powerful rodent malaria model, Plasmodium berghei whose strengths include high degree of conservation to the human parasite and unrivalled experimental access to the complete life-cycle. Using state-of-the art proteomic and conditional genome engineering tools we intend to define the signalling networks regulated by the selected PTMs and consequently identify new candidates for curative and transmission blocking strategies.